Pinch-hitter Ryan Lavarnway drove in the winning run with a single in the 11th inning, Jameson Taillon struck out a career-high 11 and the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Kansas City Royals 2-1 on Tuesday night.
It was just the second at-bat of the season for the 30-year-old Lavarnway, the Pirates’ fourth-string catcher. He hit .288 in 77 games in with Triple-A Indianapolis. Lavarnway has played 142 career games with five teams.
Starling Marte led off the 11th with an infield single off Burch Smith (1-6). Josh Bell walked and Burch struck out Francisco Cervelli before Adam Frazier was intentionally walked to load the bases, setting up Lavarnway’s walk-off hit to shallow center.
Pinch-hitter Hunter Dozier tied the game in the ninth with a double off Pirates closer Felipe Vazquez that scored Jorge Bonifacio. Left fielder Corey Dickerson threw to shortstop Jordy Mercer, who relayed home to throw out Salvador Perez and preserve the tie.
Vazquez had not blown a save since May 31, a string of 24 consecutive opportunities converted.
Taillon threw seven scoreless innings, allowing four hits and a walk. His previous career high in strikeouts was 10, set on July 12.
Kyle Crick (3-2) retired the side on 10 pitches in the 11th to earn the win.
Colin Moran had a pinch-hit home run with two outs in the seventh inning, his 10th homer this season.
It looked like the Royals might get to Taillon in the top of the seventh. With runners on second and third, Brian Goodwin hit a flyball to right fielder Pablo Reyes, who threw out Ryan O’Hearn at the plate.
Eric Skoglund allowed three hits and struck out two in six innings, his first start this season in which he did not allow a run.
The Pirates improved to 14-5 in interleague play, the second-best record in the majors behind the Boston Red Sox.